Study Guide

Nausea Chapter 16

By Jean-Paul Sartre

Chapter 16

Shrove Tuesday

  • Antoine reminisces about a strange time in his life when he was a soldier and when he gave one of his fellow soldiers a spanking. The soldier had insulted someone else for having a hole in his face, and everyone decided on the spot that this deserved a spanking.
  • We're not sure why Antoine remembers this, but it makes just as much sense as any of the other random stuff going on in his life.
  • While he's walking through his building, his landlady tells him there's a letter for him. He takes it and finds out that it's from his ex Anny. She is coming to town soon and wants to see him.
  • Anny has done this to him before and not shown up, so he's a little suspicious.
  • Thinking over the whole thing, he goes to another restaurant. He orders some food and sits with his letter, too ashamed to read it again. So he sits there trying to remember its exact wording.
  • He remembers leaving Anny when he went to Tokyo. He remembers not really loving her anymore.
  • He remembers how Anny was always obsessed with having "perfect moments," whatever that meant. She was always frustrated with Antoine for not making an effort to have perfect moments with her. In other words, she wants certain parts of her life to be like scenes from a movie or book.
  • While he flounders, a strange man walks into the bar and orders a beer. Antoine puts away the letter and thinks again about how passionately he once loved (and still loves) Anny.
  • The strange man starts to stare at Antoine. When the waitress brings him his beer, he tells her that his name is Monsieur Achille.
  • He says something that annoys the waitress, calling her a "poor girl," but then won't explain why he said it. The man seems pretty eccentric.
  • As the man keeps staring at Antoine, Antoine fears that the man will try to strike up a conversation. Just as the strange man is about to speak, someone named Dr. Rogé enters the bar.
  • The doctor orders something called calvados, while the strange man shifts on his seat and tries to catch the doctor's eye.
  • As his drink arrives, the doctor catches sight of the strange man and recognizes him. He asks the man why he's still alive, then demands the waitress to explain why she'd let a "guy like that" into the bar.
  • The doctor swears that the strange man is downright crazy. The strange man, though, takes this as a joke.
  • Antoine thinks about how he respects M. Achille, the crazy man, more than the doctor. He has no respect for people who just go through life exactly as they're supposed to: getting good jobs, marrying, and having kids.
  • It's all so predictable and boring to him.
  • He then reflects for a while on how stupid people are when they think they've gained wisdom from their experience.
  • Experience, in his mind, doesn't make you any smarter or wiser. It's just a bunch of stuff that happens with no meaning attached to it.
  • Thinking more, though, Antoine realizes that Dr. Rogé hasn't wasted his life the way other people in the bar have. He's gone out and made something of himself.
  • Staring at the doctor, though, Antoine can also tell from looks alone that the man is going to die soon. Then what will his life have meant?
  • Antoine wishes he could somehow communicate to the doctor that he (Antoine) knows the doctor is going to die. That would be interesting, at least.

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